On Friday, June 29, 2018 I was one of three hundred citizens who volunteered to help the Senior Cadets and enlisted Officers at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY practice the leadership skills they would utilize on Monday, July 1st, known as Reception Day or more simply, “R-Day”, when the senior cadet leaders receive the 1,230 incoming plebes. I have wanted to participate in this event for years but always seem to miss the cut off for registration but this year, I made it in time. My official volunteer number was RDV142. I am guessing, by decoding Government acronyms, I was Reception Day Volunteer #142.

The purpose of this exercise is so that the enlisted sergeants and upper class officers can practice the orders, test the computer tracking systems and evaluate the logistics against a small group of just three hundred volunteers. Hopefully, any bugs can be worked out before a group that is four to five times larger arrives in three days.


After signing the DD Form 2793 entitled Volunteer Agreement for Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities, I was put into a group of cadets who ranged from about 14 to 75 years of age. We were issued badges with bar codes on lanyards and instructed to place these around our neck. Our initial processing was meant to mimic the real processing so we started with a short speech in Eisenhower Hall from the Commandant and then the parents were given 60 seconds to say good bye to their child. Parents were directed to a small refreshment area in another part of Eisenhower Hall and we cadets lined up along a wall to begin our first processing step. Male and female cadets were divided into separate groups. Tattoos and body piercings review was the first step. No body piercings are permitted and tattoos are reviewed for content and location as they may not be visible in areas not covered by uniform attire. All the USMA staff’s voices were very calm at this stage.

Next, male and female cadets were joined together again and we were directed to board buses in a certain way while carrying our luggage or belongings bag, without talking, looking around or doing anything the Sergeant did not want done on “his Bus”. The stress level and volume of their voices took a quantum leap up as soon as we exited “Ike” Hall. I am not complaining, and I am sure it will be worse for the new plebes, but the staff obviously knew they were outside the earshot of the parents now.

We went through the typical hurry up and wait in lines for belongings checks where certain items could be separated and kept in clear plastic bags while others were listed on a different government form to be returned at some future, unspecified time. In essence, the bags we were allowed to put a bottle of water into along with a snack bar were then removed from our custody so we did not have access to them. In fairness, they warned us of this probability. We ultimately were returned our bags before lunch time.

Tailor measurement stations were next and then equipment such as hydration pack and duffle bag and clothing items such as shoes, socks, underwear, t-shirts, shorts, etc. were issued to cadets in a long line of tables staffed by many support staff. We did not actually receive any gear but our bar code badges were scanned to track us through the system. We went to separate changing areas to replicate changing into the proscribed uniform and then moved along to medical processing. Some of the cadets in our room were taking too long to fill out the questionaires so a Sergeant said to hurry up, let’s go. When we heard “Let’s go” we all jumped up and started heading for the door. They told us to sit, and explained they just wanted the last few cadets to finish the forms. We then went to rooms to draw various bodily fluids from us for medical testing. We were spared the actual needle stick but there were many stations set up to accomplish this part of the medical evaluation.

After medical, we went to rooms staffed by an Army officer who was an attorney. The Captain went through all the legal forms and administered the oath to all of us. We were then separated into our companies. I was part of Delta Company or D company. We were directed into a room where we had to stand very carefully on a square without touching the tape around the square. Our bag had to fit inside the square and we could not touch the bottle of water, a Cliff bar, a manual nor a pen with a tag and safety pin which were also in that small area. We had to write our name onto the tag and, using the government issued safety pin, affix the safety pin on our right hip. This was a timed exercise. It was explained how vital it was that this pin was pinned on our right hip. Here are photos of the front and back of the ID tag which contained checklist items for each cadet.


Here, we learned the only four acceptable responses by a cadet. They are:

Yes (sir, ma’am or sergeant).

No (sir, ma’am or sergeant).

No excuse (sir, ma’am or sergeant).

I don’t understand (sir, ma’am or sergeant).

We learned our company’s motto and the proper response to a greeting from a D Company cadet or to cadet cadre from other companies. It was said so fast, I did not memorize it. And it was written on a blackboard but it was on the far edge of it and with my head facing straight ahead, I could not read it. We were then given thirty seconds to hydrate and eat the Cliff bar if we wished. Chewing the Cliff Bar was stressful when another Sergeant was counting down the seconds remaining until we had to stand at attention again. One gigantic mass of Cliff bar went down my throat between …4, 3, 2, 1–stand at attention. I figured I would add some water at some future point to aid my digestion of this nutritional bolus.

Off to our next stop which involved walking very quickly to different buildings and at times standing in an unshaded, very hot marching area. We received additional instruction as to how to salute, stand at attention, how to keep our knees slightly bent to aid blood circulation. They ran us through the barber shop which had numerous chairs in a line. We were run back out to the exercise yard where we did more standing at attention. We were periodically instructed by Sergeants to hydrate. We could not do this on our own and had to ask permission to “adjust” if we needed to move briefly out of the position of attention.

It was hot and humid but the sergeants were very good in encouraging us to keep hydrated. Two persons had already fainted due to heat exposure and were taken for medical treatment. Our Sergeant did not want any of his cadets to need medical attention even though it was available if needed. Get it. Keep drinking.

The best thing I learned was an effective way to cool off. We were given permission to report to the ice tub, two cadets at a time. It is simply a big tub filled with ice water. We were instructed to hold both our arms below the ice water for a timed period of thirty seconds. Our arms had to be deep enough so that the icy water covered from our fingertips all the way up past our elbows. As soon as the Sergeant said the thirty seconds were done, we were to move back and raise our arms straight up over our heads to allow the cooled blood to come down into our body to help cool our core. It was very effective. I have used some cool streams while hiking to cool my body but I will employ this technique better by doing it the Army way. Even though the streams don’t have ice in them, they are cold during most of the months I hike along the AT.

We participated in a series of speed walks, in single file, to different buildings and returned to the same exercise yard. We went to have our height and weight taken and later for physical fitness tests such as pull ups or hang time. Finally, we were marched to another building which turned out to be the Cadet Mess Hall. After we entered the Mess Hall, the Sergeants stated the exercise was over and that “they” were just normal people again. I waited in line to receive my certificate and then reported to a dining table to be served lunch which had a Mexican theme with tortillas, vegetables, shrimp served family style. There were three large pitchers of ice water and nearby small packets of Fruit Punch flavor Gatorade. Just before eating, the Commandant made a few announcements and presented three awards. The first was to the oldest volunteer who turned out to be almost eighty years of age; the second was to the volunteer who came the furthest to participate and that award was won by someone from San Diego, California; and finally, the last award was presented to the volunteer who had completed the most years of R-Day service. This award was presented to a woman who had completed her 20 R-Day Practices. Quite impressive.


On Monday, July 1st, the new plebes arrived for their R-day which begins their six weeks of basic training. This period of training is called “Beast Barracks”.  Here is part of the Times Herald Record article about the new cadets.


I wish them all good luck and thank them for their commitment to serve the United States Army.







On Saturday 6/23/18 I again accepted the hospitality of my friends Ralph and Kathy to stay at their house before starting a three day/two night northbound hike to cover 38.4 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. This included Section #7 from PA Rt. 325 in Carsonville to Swatara Gap, Section #6 from the Swatara Gap to PA Rt. 183 and the one half mile part of Section #5 between Rt. 183 and the Game Commission gravel road leading to the trail head parking area which I owed from a prior hike of Section #5.

Day One-6/24/18

My day began with a quick breakfast courtesy of Ralph and Kathy and an early morning ride to the Rt. 325 road crossing. There is no easy way to get to it but we looped around through Swatara Gap and then went west on Rt. 325, paralleling Second, Sharp and Stony Mountains in that order. Shortly after passing the DeHart Reservoir, we arrived at the trail crossing. My hike could not begin without my usual poorly taken selfie of Ralph and I.


There was some morning mist present as I started out at 7:20am. The uphill climbing began almost immediately. I passed the trail crossing for the red blazed H. Knauber trail. The nearby directional information sign showed that I had about 10.8 miles to the Rausch Gap Shelter where I would sleep tonight.

During the first three miles, which I covered in an hour and a half, I gained about 1,100 feet in elevation. I arrived at the junction with the Horseshoe Trail. There was no mistaking my location when I saw the yellow painted horseshoe embedded in the tree.


After going over Stony Mountain and passing a small stream, I hiked through a Rhododendron grove which just surrounded me.


At 6.4 miles I crossed the Yellow Springs Trail which is marked with blue blazes. I passed remnants of the old Yellow Springs Village which was an old coal mining town. Hiking continued along the ridge back of the mountain or slightly off to the side. The path alternated between rocky to smoother footing where I could take normal strides without fear of turning an ankle. I passed the blue blazed Sand Spring trail with the nearby “The General” sign. I did not walk to see The General but it is a reference to an old, abandoned steam engine left in the woods according to some internet research.

After crossing the Cold Spring Trail junction I began a gentle descent toward the Rausch Gap Shelter whose side trail was marked with this sign. I had covered 11.3 miles in about five and one half hours at this point.


After a three tenths sideways hike, I arrived at the shelter where I met a northbound thru hiker named Turbo from Pennsylvania. I noticed that my cell phone, which uses AT&T had not had service for half of the day and had no service at the Rausch Gap Shelter as well. Fortunately, Turbo was kind enough to lend me his cell phone which used Verizon Wireless service. He had service and I made a call to check in with Bernadette from an area about fifteen feet behind the shelter. AT&T users take note. I would not get AT&T service until the Rt. 443 road crossing the next day. Turbo and I talked for a while and I took a look around to decide upon my hammock placement. This shelter, which was built in 2012, has a very handy water source. Spring water came out of a pvc pipe located next to the fire pit. Very convenient. I filtered the water to be safe but it sure was easy access.

I signed the trail register which needs a new book as all the pages were used. I inserted my entry at the top of a page.


Inside the shelter, hanging on the left hand wall, was this sign which contained some prose entitled “Environment” by an unidentified author.


I walked behind the shelter toward the privy area and noticed a cleared tent site area. That is where I found two trees which were perfect for my ENO hammock system. I made sure I installed the bug net as well. The bugs were already making their presence known.

I returned to the front of the shelter to cook my dinner of  a cup of tea with honey and a package of beef Ramon noodles which I let sit in a peanut butter jar filled with boiled water. While I ate, two female southbound hikers arrived. They were planning on finishing the Pennsylvania portion of the AT down to the Maryland border. They said there was flooding near the Rausch Creek and no easy bypass around the flooding. They ended up tromping through knee deep water. Since I was heading northbound the next morning, I would have to deal with this flooded area about a half a mile after starting my hike.

I hung my food bag in a tree and then went to bed. I stayed dry despite the rain overnight.

Day Two-6/25/18

I awoke a little after 4am and could not get back to sleep so I quietly ate some breakfast and drank some Gatorade. I packed up and was heading out the side trail by 5:05am. Fortunately, the rain stopped overnight. There was a slight breeze noticeable at times. I was glad to get an early start as I had a 17.3 mile distance to cover to reach the 501 Shelter where I would sleep tonight.

I did not change my socks from yesterday as I figured they would get wet in about ten minutes as I crossed the flooded area. I put a clean pair in the top of my pack for easy access after I made it past the deep water. Despite my best efforts, I could not tip toe through the flooded area near Rausch Creek and I stopped to remove my boots, dry the insides as best I could and put on fresh socks. My feet were happy again and I continued northbound. I wrung out my wet socks and secured them to the outside of my pack to dry while I walked.

Soon I crossed this bridge into the area of the former Village of Rausch Gap. There is a sign to explain that from 1828 to 1910 the village reached a peak of 1,000+ people. They worked the coal mining and railroad equipment repair industries until the mines were closed and the railroad moved its operations elsewhere.

There was a nearby directional sign for a cemetery but a tree had fallen across it and broken the top portion of the sign. I looked for the missing part but could not find it. I guess the cemetery contains the remains of some of the inhabitants from the 1820s-early 1900s.


After leaving the gap, I had about a 500′ climb over Second Mountain and then a fairly steep descent. As I approached the first Rt. 443 road crossing, I saw this warning sign in the woods. There was another one posted for the Southbound hikers as well but the signs were fairly close together. I did not see any construction going on.


Turbo caught up to me at Rt. 443 and we hiked together until the next Rt. 443 road crossing which has a trail head parking area. Since I had covered about 4.5 miles in a little over two and a half hours, it was time to take a break so I found a proper height boulder. Turbo walked around the nearby gate and said he would see me down the trail. I was able to use my AT&T service cell phone here to call home.

After the short break, I covered the 1.4 miles to the Swatara Creek + Waterville Iron Bridge which is next to, but east of PA Rt. 72 in Swatara Gap. This bridge was built in 1890 but was relocated to the current location in 1987. Notice the sign to the right below which indicates the 2.3 mile distance to Lickdale, PA should a hiker want to walk 4.6 miles round trip to get provisions.

I crossed the bridge, turned right, walked along a gravel road and soon I was passing under I-81 with its multi lanes of high speed traffic.

The climb out of Swatara Gap to the ridge back of Blue Mountain is surprisingly steep with an elevation gain of a little over 1,000′ in about 2.5 miles. The trail up was a mixture of pointy rocks, some boulders and other type pathways. I reached a Lookout Sign and a sign for an abandoned pipeline crossing having covered 10.5 miles before noon.

My next goal was to reach the William Penn Shelter which was 2.7 miles ahead. As the path was more forgiving, I covered that distance in only an hour. Having hiked 13.2 miles I wanted to get some additional water from the spring near the shelter. I walked downhill to the shelter and back up without finding any spring. I wasted some precious energy for nothing. I turned right back onto the AT and continued heading north with a strategy of carefully using my water for the final 4.1 miles of hiking. It is one of the rare times I had to use some of my emergency water bottle which I always carry.


There were some small ups and downs before crossing PA Rt. 645. I could sense I was getting closer to the shelter when I passed the scenic views for Fisher Lookout and for Kimmel Lookout. There is one small uphill climb to reach the PA Rt. 501 road crossing. Across the road, to my left was a parking lot with a female driver who was talking to another hiker. It was Turbo and as soon as he saw me, he said “I told you, you would catch up to me.” We entered the woods to head to the 501 Shelter and I missed this turn sign. I was too focused on foot placement on the rocky path.


After doubling back, we found the side trail and arrived at the shelter at 2:52pm. I had covered 17.3 trail miles in about nine and a half hours not counting the additional sideways trail miles. But it was worth the effort.

The 501 Shelter features a building with twelve bunks, a large central eating and socializing table under a huge skylight; four walls with two doors; picnic tables; outdoor shower; potable water source and a wonderfully helpful caretaker who lives in a nearby house. The caretaker, whose trail name is Borderline, is originally from Michigan. He even had two power strips hooked up on his front porch for hikers to recharge their cell phones.

There was only one hiker already at the shelter and he was not staying for the night. He took a break and kept heading north. Turbo in standing next to me in the photo above. He is planning on finishing his hike to Mt. Katahdin in Maine by this fall. We had the pick of bunks so we each got a bottom bunk. That is mine in the corner.

After getting some things organized, I went out back to the small shower building. There are black colored water drums on top but I don’t think the water ever gets warm. It did not matter as the cold shower was invigorating. It felt wonderful to have some soap and feel clean after two days of sweaty hiking.

I signed the trail register and rested for a while before deciding what to do for dinner.

More hikers arrived and Borderline gave us all a safety briefing and went over a few simple rules. Various hikers introduced themselves to the caretaker. There was a solo female hiker from Southeast Asia named Lin. There was a father and son pair of hikers from Iowa. I think we ended with about ten hikers inside the shelter and a few in the tent sites nearby. The caretaker explained that the local pizza place was closed on Monday but showed us the menu for Mancino’s Restaurant. I offered to buy the caretaker his dinner if he could drive to pick up the order. We waited longer to make sure we had everyone in the shelter and then placed an order. We did not eat until about 8:15pm. Two nice thru hikers from Massachusetts accompanied the caretaker in the shuttle run to pick up the food. Here was our order for 12 people:

Large Sicilian pizza-pepperoni & sausage

24oz. diet coke and regular coke

Spaghetti and tomato sauce with salad

Ziti with meatball and side salad

Large stuffed pizza with vegetables

Large tossed salad

Large Buffalo Chicken Pizza with Bacon and Ranch dressing

Large Napolitano Sausage pizza

24 oz. diet coke and 24 oz. sprite

Large cheese pizza

Large stuffed pizza with meat and a small coke.

The food disappeared very quickly as we were approaching hiker midnight (ie. 9pm) and it was time for bed.

I had to wake up twice during the night and walk to the port-a-john located down a gravel road but with my red light headlamp on I had no problem and did not disturb anyone.

I experimented with making a pillow filled with my dirty clothes. Two days of hiking had filled the Whole Wheat Potato Bread bag to its limit and it worked just fine. I twisted the open end so that it was a more pleasant olfactory sleeping experience.


I would rate this 501 Shelter very high and encourage any AT hiker to stay a night. Thanks to Borderline for being so accommodating.

Day Three-6/26/18

Turbo left before 5am but I was determined to sleep in a little and did not heat up my water for tea until about 6:15am. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the tea, said thanks to the caretaker and started down the side trail to connect back to the AT at 6:40am. My plan was to hike the last 9.3 miles of PA Section #6 and then do the .5 miles past the Rt. 183 road crossing to reach the Game Commission service road parking lot.

In just ten minutes I passed the sign for the Applebee Campsite and the Pilger Ruh (Pilgram’s Rest) Spring. Just after this sign I saw a tree with a branch shaped like an arm bent at the elbow. It looked like the tree was flexing his left arm.

Hiking in this next section was fairly flat and I passed a couple of junctions for the blue blazed Kessel Trail. There was a scenic view at one where an American Flag was stuck into a tree which was positioned as a bench to look out over the nearby valley below.

The trail begins a fairly steep descent into Shuberts Gap where the Hertlein Campsite is located next to a refreshing stream. It was the only good source of water for this hike today. There was a nearby box for a water cup but there were no cups in it. I took a couple of handfuls of water to cool off my face and neck.

The climb out of Shuberts Gap was longer and higher than the descent from the other side. I passed a pipeline opening at the 6.3 mile mark and knew that I had just three miles left until the Rt. 183 road crossing. I passed the Fort Dietrich Snyder Monument which recognizes the lookout post in 1755 to warn of the approach of enemies during the French and Indian War.


I turned right after the monument, walked a short way before turning left to hike the last easy .3 miles to Rt. 183. This ended the northern part of Section #6. I crossed the highway, which is a little dangerous due to the curves in the road and the high speed of traffic, in order to walk the .5 miles to the Game Commission service road. I needed to do this part of Section #5 to complete this section. I turned right on the service road and walked the steep, gravel road back down to the trail head parking area where I had parked my car three days before. I hiked 9.8 miles in less than five hours.

I hiked 38.4 miles on the three days and had a great trip.

On the way home I stopped at the New Smithville Diner and had a delicious bacon cheddar cheeseburger. The server gave me a small cole slaw with the sandwich even though it was not included in the price but it was pictured on the menu as being included. The cole slaw was better than the fries.


I have now hiked a total of 350.2 miles of the AT [89.8 in New York(completed), 71.9 in New Jersey(completed), 50.4 in CT(completed), 108.7 in Pennsylvania, 5.0 in Massachusetts, .9 in West Virginia and 23.5 in Maryland].

Thanks again to Ralph and Kathy who are such great company and hosts. Thanks to Bernadette for supporting my hiking adventures.

Already have more hikes planned in July.

I only have 1,838.9 miles to go.

Condor 3


On Sunday, June 3, 2018 I was back on the trail for a two day hike continuing my efforts to complete the 227 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Pennsylvania.


I began at the trail head parking area which is accessed via the State Game Lands Road off Rt. 183, just a little south of where the AT crosses Rt. 183. The goal was to hike all of Section #5 which is a 14.4 mile section from Rt. 183 to Port Clinton. Since I was starting in the parking area, I had to walk uphill a short distance  on the game lands road until actually connecting with the AT. There is a well placed sign to remind hikers to turn.


I turned right and headed northbound at 6:03am on a cool morning that had some spotty light rain. Despite some rock embedded paths, the area was lush with ferns growing alongside the trail. At least the rocks were not the sharp, pointy type which are the norm for the sections further north heading toward the Delaware Water Gap.

In less than a mile I passed the sign for the Black Swatara Spring located .3 miles to the east. As I had plenty of fluids, I kept hiking and enjoyed seeing all the Mountain Laurel which began blooming.

While hiking I realized that the mountain laurel flowers I was seeing in the photo on the upper left were the same flowers on a bush next to our house in the upper right photo. For some reason I had never connected the two. I know that Mountain Laurel is the state flower for both Pennsylvania and for New York.

After a little more than one hour I passed a vacated camping area where a shirt and pair of jeans was left hanging on a line between some trees. I could see no tent or other signs of a hiker in the area so I guess the clothes were forgotten.


At 7:30am I passed the junction for the Eagles Nest Trail to the East and this informational sign showed the distance south back to Rt. 183 and north to the Eagles Nest Shelter, two miles away to the north.


I passed an entirely blackened tree to my right. What was odd was that this tree appeared to have been burned in a fire, but the trees and brush around it did not seem to show fire damage.

The trail in this stretch defied “Rocksylvania’s” reputation as my feet were given a respite on my way to the Eagles Nest Shelter.


After hiking 5.3 miles in a little over two hours, I came to the side trail signs for the Eagles Nest Shelter which is reached by turning west and heading .3 miles to the shelter. I like when the shelters are closer to the AT. These sideways miles don’t count as miles on the AT but they can take a toll on the hiker. This hike to and from the shelter involved over a half mile of up and down hiking including a small stream crossing.

I took a short break at the shelter, signed the register and noticed small windows on the rear wall of the shelter. These windows allowed some light to filter in to the back areas of the sleeping platform. It was a smart idea to make it brighter in the shelter.

With the trees having all their leaves, my walk through the green tunnel of the AT was wonderful. I tried to capture the feeling I had as you look ahead at the trail as the path disappears into the forest. Here is the best I could do.


The hiking continued to be easy as I crossed some road crossings, one being overgrown with grass and another being a dirt and gravel mixture.

I passed the Phillips Canyon Spring side trail sign 9.9 miles into my hike.


I was making good time, crossed another state game lands gravel road, passed the side trail marker for Marshall’s Path and I decided to stop when I saw the sign for the Auburn Lookout. I walked the very short distance to the rock outcropping and saw a day hiker with his dog enjoying the view. It was overcast but some of the early morning mist had begun to lift.

I headed back northbound, crossed a couple of pipeline clearing areas before beginning the 1,000′ descent into Port Clinton. The last 700′ occurs in about .7 miles on a path that sometimes had rock steps and other times had a steep grade where I had to use leg muscles to help brake my speed downhill. I passed a family of hikers with two small children who were taking a break and I saw the same day hiker with his dog from Auburn Lookout as they passed me on the final descent.

At the base of the hill, the local Schuylkill River Trail intersects and there are signs to mark that trail. AT hikers cross the trail, turn to the left for just a short way and then make a hard right down a short, but very steep embankment, to reach the Reading and Northern Railroad train yard. This is the embankment and the sign next to the train yard.

As this was an active freight rail yard with locomotives and train cars moving around, I did not do much raptor watching. I made sure I crossed a bunch of tracks safely as I looked ahead to the white blazes next to a green painted metal bridge. Interestingly, I saw a sign that indicated this railroad was a wildlife sanctuary.

I crossed the bridge, walked a short way to Broad Street, turned right to Penn Street where my hike for the day ended. I would pick up the AT tomorrow at this intersection by the fire house.

Counting some sideways miles in addition to the actual AT miles, my Iphone health app logged that I had walked 16.6 miles, taken 40,618 steps and ascended 36 floors in about seven hours which included a couple of short breaks.

Next, I walked the couple of blocks north on Penn Street, past a Pepsi vending machine which literally is sitting on grass along the side of this road that is marked with blue blazes on the way toward The Pavilion. A local church organization donates some gallon sized water bottles for hikers at the Pavilion and the field across Penn Street can be used for tents.


As I was staying overnight at the Port Clinton Hotel, I turned right onto Clinton Street and entered the Port Clinton Hotel from the Center Street (Rt. 61) side of the building.

There are signs specifically addressed to hikers as to their expected conduct at the hotel. Here is one of the signs directed at hikers. I followed the rules by removing my pack and leaving it on the bench in front.


I entered the bar/restaurant in order to pay for one night’s stay upstairs. Guests had to also pay a $10 refundable key return fee. The bartender processed my credit card, handed me a key for Room #3, a towel, soap and a small bottle of shampoo. After getting my backpack off the porch, I used a different outside door to head upstairs. Here is what my room looked like. It was clean and had a working window A/C unit. This room cost $65 a night, more than a typical hostel would cost, but it served me well.

Guests share a common bathroom with a shower. I made use of that right away and felt good to be in clean clothes. Since I had some time to kill before dinner, I walked next door to the Port Clinton Peanut Shop which is located right across Clinton Street. Different AT guides and books mention this store so I wanted to see it.

After walking through two rooms full of candy and various sweet snacks, I purchased a small bag of malt balls to be added to my GORP (good ‘ol raisins and peanuts) bag for tomorrow’s hike. However, the malt balls never made it to the next day’s snack bag.

There are not many restaurant choices in Port Clinton and, as I did not want to walk three more miles one way to Hamburg, PA, I opted on eating dinner in the Port Clinton Hotel Restaurant. It was a great choice. I was served by Penny and had a delicious cheese steak with a salad and a diet pepsi. Penny said I could take my soda upstairs and she refilled it before I paid the check.


I slept soundly and awoke before my alarm which was set for 5:15am. I got hot water from the bathroom sink for my tea and honey and drank that with a PB&J sandwich while I repacked for my second hike day. My wife, Bernadette, had given me a few extra power bars and asked that I give them out to other hikers. So I left them in the free hiker box in the hallway near the upstairs rooms. A bunch of thru hikers had checked in last night so I am sure someone will snatch up the free food.


As I was leaving right at 6:00am, there was no hotel staff to receive the room key, so I took a photo of me placing it into the drop box. The bartender said a $10 check will be mailed to me for the key deposit return.



I walked the couple blocks from the Port Clinton Hotel to the intersection of Penn Street and Broad Street. At 6:10am I followed the white blazes northbound, around a gate, before bearing right to follow the path along the river.


Soon I was climbing a short embankment to reach the underpass for Rt. 61 whose traffic could be heard rumbling overhead. There was a lot of graffiti painted on the concrete structure under the highway.

After leaving the underpass, hikers approach the guardrail in front of Blue Mountain Road. The AT turns left a little, goes through an opening in the guardrail, crosses the road and begins the climb up Blue Mountain.

I hiked 2.8 miles in about an hour and forty minutes before I reached the marker for the Pocohontas Spring. There was not much water flowing but it was adequate if someone really needed water.

I saw another orange spotted newt or eft on the trail. I have seen these creatures in several states now. This was the first of several I would see today.


Today’s hike featured several ascents and descents in a roller coaster fashion. Next up was the climb past the intersection for the Minnehaha Spring which was about 900′ higher than where I had started in Port Clinton this morning.


I began a gradual descent toward Windsor Furnace where I entered a grassy meadow and photographed these signs marking the area.

Before crossing the wooden bridge to continue northbound, I noticed the sign informed hikers that Mt. Katahdin in Maine was 965.7 miles north from that point. I realized that I have done nearly 300 miles of that 965.7. The more northern 665.7 miles, the part I have not done as yet, is some of the hardest of the entire AT.

I followed the signs to the Windsor Furnace Shelter and signed the register there and quickly returned back to hiking.

The trail continues back uphill fairly steeply toward Pulpit Rock which is at 1582′ above sea level. I stopped to enjoy the view and take this photo. I met a northbound thru hiker named Olive Branch from Georgia. She started in her home state earlier this year and was determined to reach Mt. Katahdin in one continuous northbound thru hike. She was well on the way as she had already completed about 1225 miles of the journey.

Near Pulpit Rock, but to the west of the trail, is the Pulpit Rock Observatories which are run by the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society. They had a private property sign posted so I did not get closer to take any photos of the buildings there.

I met another northbound hiker from Georgia. His trail name was Georgia Peach. His intention was to reach Mt. Katahdin this year as well. After briefly chatting with him while he was taking a break on an uphill section, I left my contact information with him in case he needed any assistance once her reached the NY/CT sections of the trail. I later saw Olive Branch and provided her with similar information as she was hiking solo too.

The next two miles keeps hikers along the ridge back of the mountain and the Pinnacle rock formation is located about 80 yards to the east of the trail. Once clear of the rocky terrain, the trail merges with a dirt and stone service road for miles and this makes the hiking very easy. Once hikers pass the sign on the left for the Gold Spring, the trail descends steadily before bearing left, back into the woods, off the service road. The trail provides a few very short up and downs as it approaches the Hawk Mountain Road crossing which marked the end of my day’s hike. I turned right at the road, walked .2 miles and rested at the picnic table at the Eckville Shelter.

My Iphone health app logged my activity for Day Two as 15.8 miles, 39,023 steps and 92 floors which was indicative of the up and down pattern of today’s hike which was the southern portion of PA Section #4. I had already done the northern portion previously.

After a short wait, my friend Ralph arrived to pick me up as I was staying at his house for the night. Ralph, and his wife, Kathy, were great hosts and treated me as family. We enjoyed Italian food at a local restaurant and Ralph cooked me an omelet for breakfast the next day. I did not hike the next day as Ralph and I had planned for me to be his guest at a retired FBI agents luncheon. It was a perfect way to end my trip before returning home. Thank you Ralph and Kathy. They even offered to help me with some of my other section hikes in PA.

Including the 29.1 miles I hiked in the two days, I have now hiked 311.8 miles of the AT [89.8 in New York(completed), 71.9 in New Jersey(completed), 50.4 in Connecticut (completed), 70.3 in Pennsylvania, 5.0 in Massachusetts, .9 in West Virginia and 23.5 in Maryland].

Thank you Bernadette for supporting my hiking efforts. More hikes to plan- ONLY 1,877.2 miles to go!

Condor 3



On Saturday, May 26, 2018 I was joined by our youngest son, Joel, and his girlfriend, Emily Harvey, in a repeat hike of New York Appalachian Trail (AT) Section #3 which is a 7.6 mile hike between Rt. 55 and Rt. 22. After arranging with my good friend, Jimmy, to help get our car parked on Rt. 22 just north of the AT crossing, we rode to the Rt. 55 road crossing to begin our northbound hike at 9:45am. The purpose of the hike was to introduce Emily to the AT and for me to measure the circumference of the Dover Oak tree which is located next to the AT crossing of County Route 20 on this section. The weather was hot and a little humid as we entered the woods.

Hikers soon cross a small footbridge over a stream on the way to the side loop trail southern intersection for Nuclear Lake. Continuing north, we skirted the western edge of the lake and passed where the northern side loop re-joined the AT. In between, we made a short walk to enjoy the lake view from the waters edge. The water was clear and we could see a small fish swimming around in the shallow area near us.

Foot travel over the paths in this section is generally easy with very little rock scrambling needed. There were small puncheon planks built to help hikers not damage the ecology in the marshy, swampy areas where there were no rocks large enough for rock hopping. We began about a 450′ climb up West Mountain and stopped briefly at the rock outcropping where some other hikers were enjoying the view of the farm fields below.

After beginning a fairly steep descent, we turned onto the side trail marked for the Telephone Pioneer Shelter. While looking for the trail register inside the shelter, I noticed this painting by Joe Janaro.


Sitting at the shelter’s picnic table, we met two Pennsylvania hikers-trail names Math Genius and Sandals- who were attempting to finish, in a southbound direction, all of the AT within New York State during this Memorial Day weekend. They had already section hiked hundreds of miles of the AT from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Maryland and all of Pennsylvania over the past four years. I recommended they stop at the Bellvale Creamery for a waffle ice cream cone if it fit in with their hiking schedule before they reached the New Jersey border. Since they were a long way from home, I offered Sandals my phone number in case they needed some help in the next few days.

I found and signed the shelter register for Joel aka Luna Chaser, Emily aka E. West and I aka Condor 3. The register was in a metal, Take a Book/Leave a Book box mounted on the front wall of the shelter. Joel took my photo as I sat on the front edge of the sleeping platform. See photos below.

Sandals was kind enough to take our photo before we said goodbye and wished them luck on their extended section hike.


Back on the trail,we made a sharp right hand turn and continued a steep descent with switchbacks for the next .7 miles until we began a small walk up a few steps onto Rt. 20 (Dover Road) where we beheld the beauty of the Dover Oak tree. The Dover Oak tree is considered the largest White Oak tree on the AT. It is massive. Until you actually look up at the width of the canopy of branches above you, you don’t realize that you were already walking underneath the branches before you had even crossed the road to the other side where the tree trunk is located.

When I last hiked this section in January 2017 with Jimmy and his daughter, Anna, I did not bring a tape measure to record the circumference of the tree. But I was prepared this time, and based upon a Youtube video from four years ago, I saw a prior hiker measure the tree at a height of four feet above the ground. I think the measurement was about 20 feet and a few inches at that time. With Joel’s help holding the tape and Emily holding the GoPro camera, I wanted to update the measurement which was 21 feet 9 inches at the height of four feet above the ground. See the link below to watch a video of the taking of this measurement.

After Emily gave the tree one last hug…


we resumed the last 2.4 miles of hiking through nearby, rolling  farm fields which provided a nice, soft cushion for our feet. There is a little uphill climbing through these farm fields but it was enjoyable. Near the end, as we descended from the elevation gained in the farm fields, we walked across more puncheon in marshy areas before making a left turn onto a footbridge which connects to a beautiful elevated boardwalk over this watershed area. We saw a couple of sightseers enjoying the view from the convenience of the boardwalk.

We arrived at the Appalachian Trail Train Station crossing at 1:45pm and we took a final photo before heading home.


Thank you Bernadette for supporting my hiking interest while you were home baking a cheesecake for our friends, Peter and Bill.

Thanks to Joel and Emily for being good hiking partners.

More hikes to enjoy.

Condor 3


On Thursday, May 17th through Saturday, May 19, 2018 I, aka Condor 3, had the pleasure to hike part of West Virginia and four sections in Maryland with my friend, Jamie, aka Commander Plodder.

DAY ONE- Thursday, May 17, 2018

Our original plan for Day One was to start at the Blackburn Trail Center in Round Hill, Virginia and hike north into Harpers Ferry (HF), West Virginia. That plan was still in effect when we first dropped one car at the Tea Horse Hostel, 1312 W. Washington Street, Harpers Ferry, WV which would serve as our home base for this three day adventure. Since we wanted to hike northbound to HF, we drove south into Virginia to park at the parking area at the Blackburn Trail Center off Virginia Rt. 713 aka Appalachian Trail Road. As we made the right hand turn onto the Appalachian Trail Road, we saw about four vehicles parked near the stop sign. That was our first indication that something was wrong as the parking areas we planned to use were still about two miles away at the trail center. When we looked further down the road, we saw it had flooded and the below sign had been posted.


As we were further assessing the situation, we noticed a local resident named Mike walking through the high water in order to get to his car which was one of the cars at the stop sign near us. Daily flooding had been washing the road away and each attempt to place more stone to repair the road was thwarted by the heavy rains and flooding in this area. Local residents decided to park their cars on the safe side of the flooded/washed away roadway in order to slosh through the high water to get to their car. At least their car would not be trapped on the wrong side of the washout.

We decided quickly that our hiking plan for Day Two now became the hiking plan for Day One. We wished Mike well and headed north to park at the Gathland State Park in Maryland. This would allow us to do a southbound hike which would comprise of Maryland AT Section #6 (6.7 miles), Maryland AT Section #7 (3.3 miles) and then just the northern .9 miles in HF which is part of VA AT Section #1 which would be a total of 10.9 miles. At the end of our hike we would make a right turn onto the blue blazed side trail leading through a few local streets in HF to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. Simply put, we would end up at the same location, just from a different direction. There was a convenient parking lot near the main intersection of Gapland Road and Arnoldtown Road which is the center of the Gathland State Park. Thanks to the rain and it being a weekday, I think we were only the second vehicle in the lot.


This imposing stone structure is the War Correspondents Memorial which is next to the parking area. The small plaque on the front stone recognizes the First New Jersey Brigade’s efforts during the Civil War on September 14, 1862 at which time the Brigade would suffer losses of 40 killed and 134 wounded in a battle near South Mountain, Jefferson, Maryland.

The directory on the upper right lists the names of eighteen army correspondents killed during the Civil War. Despite the rain and wind, Commander Plodder and I were ready to start our hike. A quick selfie and some photos of signs nearby, and we headed onto the trail about 9am.

After only 45 minutes of hiking on the sloppy and slippery trail, we noticed this stone marker on the left side.


It is in memory of Glenn R. Caveney of Bethesda, Maryland who lived from 1955-1971. According to mytripjournal.com, Glenn helped his father maintain a section of the AT in Shenandoah National Park before Glenn was killed in an auto accident when only sixteen years of age.

We experienced a mixed bag of trail conditions varying from the wider Fire Break paths with some grassy patches to stone pathways with water streaming over and around them. Commander Plodder took it all in stride and we just kept moving forward through the rain.

After covering 3.7 miles in a little over two hours, we noticed a shelter sign as we arrived at the Edward B. Garvey Shelter around 11:11am. According to mytripjournal.com, this shelter, which was built in 2001, was named after Edward Garvey who was a Boy Scout, an AT thru hiker and a volunteer for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. There were two female hikers on the lower platform and we could hear noise from a couple of hikers who were occupying the loft area which was accessed by an exterior set of stairs on the back of the shelter. The girls headed out onto the trail and Commander Plodder posed in front of the shelter.

Kudos to the trail maintainers who did the work at this shelter. It featured the best fire pit area which was surrounded by three nice bench seating areas. One of the best I have seen so far on the AT.


Here are the steps leading up to the loft. And the photo below shows the muddy conditions of the trail after we left the shelter and continued southbound. I could not find a shelter register to sign.

After hiking a little less than three more miles, we noticed a hiker, to our right, who was  trying to fold up his tent and camp stuff to resume hiking. We walked a short way to our right and met this nice gentleman whose trail name is Kibs. Kibs accepted our offer to help. After getting his tarp, tent, stake poles, etc. folded up, we talked a while and shared our pre-retirement careers with Kibs who was in the prosthesis business before he retired. Kibs took our photo and we reciprocated the favor. We showed Kibs how to forward his photos to friends via email. He was very appreciative.

Kibs let me take a photo of the AT logo, made with black electrical tape, which adorned his prosthetic left arm.


After wishing Kibs well and providing him an extra Chocolate Power Bar, we continued hiking and began a fairly steep descent of about 500 feet with some switch backs on the trail to ease the strain on the legs during the descent. There was a warning sign not to take shortcuts which could harm the small bushes and plant life. We stayed on the trail.


Soon we crossed Weverton Road on our way to the C & O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal Tow Path. We turned right onto the tow path and passed the sign for Weverton, Milepost 58, which is part of the tow path running 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown in Washington, DC.

This tow path is very wide and is used now by hikers and bicyclists often. Here is what the nicer and drier areas of the path looked like. There were many areas where large puddles covered the path from side to side. Sometimes we just slushed through the shallowest depth of the water. We were pretty much soaked through at this point anyway.


Hikers spend about 2.6 miles of the AT on this tow path which sits between the Potomac River on our left and the canal itself on our right. We could see the angry appearance of the Potomac River which was very turbulent and was a muddy color as it raced by heading toward the confluence with the Shenandoah River in Harpers Ferry. A northbound thru hiker stopped and discussed the rising water in the Potomac and asked how the trail was up ahead. We mentioned it was okay so far. Apparently, according to the thru hiker, the huge rainfalls had swollen the Potomac to nine feet above flood level and with the additional rain still falling, officials were expected the river to crest at 21 feet above flood level sometime later that night. There was a possibility that Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) personnel may close this section of the AT along the tow path due to the chance it may become severely flooded and impassable. I was glad we were getting this area of the AT hiked today as hikers in the next two days may not be able to cover this area.

Commander Plodder pointed to some control locks used to regulate the water level and flow in the canal as we neared the Byron Memorial Footbridge. There was a nearby caretaker’s residence for the canal lock and I took these photos before we climbed the steps up onto the footbridge.

Once on the bridge, we had now left Maryland, crossed the Potomac River and entered West Virginia. With the help of my hiking partner Commander Plodder, Maryland and West Virginia were my sixth and seventh states respectively that I have hiked in along the AT (of the 14 total states).

As soon as we crossed the footbridge, we were on High Street in Lower Town which is a very historic area of Harpers Ferry. We walked past many interesting buildings but we needed to finish this last .9 miles to get to the side trail for the ATC Headquarters. We began some very steep climbs up steps or paths on our way to Jefferson Rock which commands a beautiful view of the joining of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

As the nearby informational sign notes, Thomas Jefferson described the view here during a visit to Harpers Ferry in 1783. I decided to be a rule follower and not climb onto the rock. In this rain and with the steep descent on the other side, a person would have to be out of their mind to even consider going onto Jefferson Rock. Onward we continued for another .4 miles on a winding dirt and rocky path until we reached the directional sign to the ATC at 4pm. It is clearly marked and a trail angel had left some glazed doughnuts in plastic containers as snacks near the base of the sign. We both passed on the doughnuts but we appreciated the sentiment.

Of course, the side trail was uphill as well but after just a little effort we got to street level and followed the blue blazes across the former campus of Storer College. After a quick map check and a few short blocks, we arrived at the ATC Headquarters on Washington Street. Other hikers were getting ready to leave and continue their hike. We waited a short while as a nice ATC volunteer came out and took our official ATC photo (and even took more photos using both our cell phones). Here we are as proud hikers.


We left our packs and trekking poles outside on a bench and went inside. While waiting for our official photo to be printed, Commander Plodder talked to one of the ATC staff about trail conditions and I struck up a conversation with a northbound through hiker whose trail name was Blueberry. Blueberry and her husband, Pickle, were thru hiking and as they were originally from down South, I offered my name and contact information in case they needed some help when they got to the area of New York State. We exchanged contact information and Blueberry and Pickle inserted their official photo into the master binder just ahead of our photo.

A note as to how the ATC numbers the hikers who pass through their building. Northbound thru hikers are given a number in red ink, southbounders are given a green colored number, section hikers (like us) are given blue colored numbers and flip floppers are given purple colored numbers. Flip floppers come in different styles but one example is a hiker who hikes northbound from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and then leaves the trail to go to Mt. Katahdin, Maine and hike southbound back to Harpers Ferry in the same calendar year. Here is our official photo as it appears in the binder.


We left the ATC and turned left for about a six block walk down Washington Street to the Tea Horse Hostel where we registered for two nights with the owner, Benjamin, who was very friendly and helpful. I highly recommend this hostel if you come near Harpers Ferry.

Benjamin explained how guests accessed the bunk rooms upstairs via a side staircase. We quickly checked out the bunk room. There were ten bunks in our room and only two upper bunks available so we got those two. Every bunk was booked for the night. We then drove the car we had left earlier that morning in the parking area behind the hostel to retrieve our other car at the Gathland State Park. We had a short drive back to the hostel where we enjoyed warm showers and dry clothes. The upstairs at the hostel has an open concept living room, dining room, kitchen with a separate smaller bunkroom containing four bunk beds and with our larger bunkroom with the ten bunks on the other end of the space. There is a bathroom off the dining room and there is a bathroom accessed from inside the large bunk room. Both bathrooms have a shower and tub. Benjamin provided us with linens for the bed, pillow case for the pillow, a small blanket as well as a towel and washcloth. Everything was clean and neat.

For a small fee of just six dollars, Benjamin washed and dried a load of clothes in the washer/dryer located in the downstairs reception area. I opted for this service which was great as my clothes were being cleaned while we walked the short distance to the Anvil Restaurant for dinner. It is just two buildings away from the hostel.

After dinner, we returned to the hostel and did some logistical planning for the next day’s hike. The hostel has Wifi access as well and other hikers, both section or thru hikers, were availing themselves of the internet connection. We met hikers from different parts of the U.S. and I spoke with a solo hiker named Fritz Lang from Germany. He had already hiked a significant portion of the southern part of the AT  the prior summer and had now returned from Germany to finish the northern part all the way to Maine. I exchanged some information with Fritz in case I could help him when he reached New York State.

Commander Plodder and I had hiked 10.9 miles of the AT not counting the additional sideways hiking on side trails. My Iphone Health App said we had walked 12.3 miles, taken 34,967 steps and climbed 31 floors. After making up my bunk, I quickly fell asleep around 8:30pm. The expression on the AT is that 9pm is considered “hikers’ midnight”. Despite the bunkroom having ten bunks occupied by tired hikers, the place got quiet very quickly. Everyone was respectful of other guests and I kept my Petzl headlamp nearby in case I had to get up during the night. The red light setting would not disturb the other sleepers.

DAY TWO- Friday, May 18, 2018


Tea Horse Hostel owner Benjamin became the breakfast chef. Included with a stay at the Tea Horse is a free waffle breakfast with maple syrup, orange juice, fruit and coffee. I had my tea and at 7am Benjamin started cranking out the waffles on the two waffle irons. I asked how many waffles we could each have, Benjamin replied “As many as you want, I’ll keep making them.” We finished up with breakfast but before we left, Commander Plodder recommended moving our belongings onto two available bottom bunks so when we returned later in the afternoon, we had reserved the better accommodations. This was a great strategy which worked to perfection. I even had a wall outlet to charge my cell phone next to me when we returned later during the afternoon. Commander Plodder arranged a chair from the dining room as a night table next to his bunk.

We drove our cars to the two parking areas in order for us to hike southbound on Maryland AT Section #3 which is an 8.6 mile section between the Wolfsville Road Trailhead parking area near South Mountain State Park and the US Route 40 Trailhead parking area near the I-70 footbridge.

As we got out of our car to start hiking, we met two other hikers who were waiting for a ride to PenMar Park near the Mason-Dixon Line with Pennsylvania as they were going to hike that ten mile section today. They took our photo.


We exited the parking lot and turned left as our Google Maps app said the AT crossed Wolfsville Road south of the parking lot. Thankfully, the two hikers still awaiting their ride said that the AT crossed north of the parking area. We returned and there was an Appalachian Trail sign which had “north” painted over in brown paint. It directed us on a short side path to where the AT intersected. We turned left and headed southbound. Here is the photo of the sign in the lot and a sign at the AT intersection.

As soon as you cross the road, there is another sign as well. It was 8:52am and our second journey began. We headed south.


This was one of several different times where I needed help getting back oriented correctly on the AT. Commander Plodder kept us heading in the right direction. The first half mile of this section involves a fairly steep climb up about 400 feet in that short distance. The path in parts  involved carefully placing your feet on larger boulders and hopping from one rock to the next. This is what it looked like.


A little before noon we had covered almost five miles as we arrived at the intersection with the Thurston Griggs Trail on our right and the Pogo Memorial Campsite on our left.

There was an AT logo painted on a large slab of rock.


We decided to eat our lunch sitting on some rocks in front of the Pogo Memorial Campsite which is in memory of Walter H. “Pogo” Rheinheimer Jr. who lived from 1958-1974. According to an article posted on BlueRidgeCountry.com  by Pogo’s older brother, Pogo was actually born in 1957. He was a 16 year old member of the Mountain Club of Maryland and had hiked about half of the AT prior to his death by drowning in the Potomac River in 1974. There were a couple of different tenting areas and an old but functioning privy. It was a nice place to take our break and the sound of the rushing water was wonderful.

We finished lunch, quickly rock hopped over the nearby Black Rock Creek which had  a few different tributaries thanks to the rain rolling across the ground. During the next hour we passed the signs for the Black Rock Cliffs and Annapolis Rocks, both to the west on short side trails.

After eight miles of hiking we arrived at the soft, leaf covered side trail to the Pine Knob Shelter. As we approached, we noticed some hikers in a larger group had set up a campfire nearby but separate from the shelter.

After a short stay to take a few photos, we only had about .6 miles left until the I-70 Footbridge. This part of the trail had a  slight downhill and the AT passes underneath the deafening roar of the trucks and cars overhead on US Route 40. As we approached the I-70 Footbridge, I thought that we had to turn right, cross the footbridge and go to the side trail for the US Rt. 40 trailhead parking area.

As we were crossing the footbridge which was entirely enclosed by chain link fencing, I noticed numerous padlocks had been hooked onto the fencing.


This reminded me in a small way of the many padlocks hooked onto the fencing along the bridges across the Seine River in Paris, France. Lovers would hook their lock onto the fencing and toss the key into the Seine. Here, above I-70, the couples hooked their padlock and threw the key where? Hopefully not into windshields of oncoming vehicles. I guess you will just have to ask either Cullen & Mary or Kim & Bill what they did with their keys.


After about .3 miles, Commander Plodder said that he thought we should have turned left before the footbridge and not right across the footbridge. So we double-backed to the footbridge, crossed it for the second unnecessary time, and lo and behold, there were the side trail markers for the US Rt. 40 trailhead parking area. Thank you once again Commander Plodder, your career as an Officer in the Navy has served you well.

If you look closely at the base of the wooden post is the blue blaze and US 40 with an arrow. We walked just a short way and saw the parking area up ahead. Now, most of the rain we felt during the day, occurred because of wind blowing rain drops off the leaves and branches in the woods. As soon as we made it into our car, the skies opened up with very heavy rain which, fortunately, we had just missed. We drove to pick up our other car  in the Wolfsville Road lot and as we were leaving that lot, we saw the same two gentlemen from this morning as they were emerging from the woods having just finished their ten mile hike from the Pennsylvania border.  After a couple of days, we were getting a little more efficient at driving in this area.

Although my Iphone battery had gone dead, Commander Plodder’s Iphone Health app recorded that we had walked 9.2 miles, taken 28,914 steps and had climbed 34 floors on the second day of our adventure.

After showering, we decided to return to the Anvil Restaurant again for dinner. We did not want to walk in the rain which continued since our drive back from the AT. We sat at a table in a back room, different from the prior night, and met our server Kaylee. She was a bubbly, teenager who was very proud of her colorful nail polish. She brought us our beverages and I asked her what the menus ‘Soup du Jour’ was. Kaylee, believing that I needed a translation and that I was a little hard of hearing, explained that it meant “SOUP…OF…THE…DAY”. I asked what the soup was for today and Kaylee said “we don’t have one”. So I got the same salad and cheeseburger as last night.

We returned to the Tea Horse and Commander Plodder reminded me that I still had clothes from today’s hike in the dryer down stairs. I picked them up, thanked Benjamin again, and headed upstairs. After talking with different hikers, we learned that the ATC had closed the trail between the Footbridge over the Potomac, along the tow path, up   the trail north to the Keep Tryst Road area near I-340. Hikers were arranging to get shuttles to be dropped off above the closed area in order to continue their hike.

One couple at the hostel, Dave and Desert Rose from Arizona, needed a ride to the Weverton Road parking area which is located just north of the closed area of the AT. We offered to drop them off the next morning as we were heading in that direction for our last hiking day.

DAY THREE-Saturday, May 19, 2018

We decided to hike MD AT Section #4 which is a 4.9 mile long section between the trailhead parking area on US Alt. Rt. 40 and the same US Rt. 40 trailhead parking area near the I-70 footbridge we had used the day before. We planned to hike northbound so we could retrieve our car and begin the trip back toward where our spouses awaited us in Virginia. Alas, we left before 7am and could not partake in Benjamin’s free waffle breakfast this morning.

After dropping Dave and Desert Rose at the Weverton Road parking area, we arranged our cars to begin our northbound hike from the parking area just east of the Old South Mountain Inn located on US Alt. 40 near Turners Gap, Maryland. We headed north across the road around 7:45am and it was raining AGAIN. But it did not matter. We were use to it by now.

As soon as one starts hiking in the muddy path, a stone church is visible on the right.


We kept hiking across Monument Road on our way along the 1.6 mile distance to the Washington Monument State Park. We arrived in less than an hour, were able to use the restroom facilities located near the parking area and then saw the directional sign for the Mount Vernon Shelter located in the park.


We stopped there shortly to take a break so I could put on my pack cover. We departed after the brief stop, turned to head north on the AT and came to the directional signs for the Washington Monument. There were informational signs at intervals along the way.

Here I am standing next to the Monument which is the first completed monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington. It was begun on July 4, 1827.

Commander Plodder and I walked the spiral stone staircase inside the monument up to the open air roof where there were signs identifying distant landmarks. Here is a photo of one of the informational signs which depicts a beautifully clear day. Unfortunately, you can see the foggy mist we saw this day, but it was fun to see this landmark. It is a wonderful piece of history.


After descending the stairs at the monument, Commander Plodder made sure I reconnected with the AT in the northerly direction.


Our hike continued under a Powerline and then back into the woods where an artistic trail maintainer with a chainsaw expressed some artistic flair on the end of a cut log.


After about another 1.8 miles we crossed Boonsboro Mountain Road where we entered a residential area. We passed a side trail for Bartman Hill Trail and then had only about .4 miles until we reached the I-70 footbridge again. After crossing it, we spoke briefly to a couple of women hikers who were going for a short hike and had just parked their car at the same lot where we were headed. We noted that the rain seemed to have stopped for about an hour. We made it back to our car at 10:54am.

Our Iphone Health App recorded that we walked 6 miles, taken 17,391 steps and climbed 30 floors on our Day 3 hike.

The Iphone Health App totals for the three days reads as follows: 27.5 miles, 81,272 steps and 95 floors climbed.

We then drove south to retrieve our other car near the Old South Mountain Inn and then headed south for Virginia where we would rejoin our wives for dinner. It was fun sharing stories both ways. I was glad to hear our wives, Bernadette and Sandy, had so much fun together in Sandy’s Art Studio and after we admired their completed art projects, they enjoyed hearing some of our AT stories.

One of the highlights of this entire trip was saved for after dinner on Saturday. Commander Plodder’s wife, Sandy, had mentioned that she believed  she could outwit me in a drug search and hide things in her living room in such a way that I could never find them. She knew that I had a long career in law enforcement as a police officer and as an FBI Special Agent, but felt she would prevail in this exceptional match of wits. In fairness, she had some time to devise some tricky little hiding places but I felt I would do just fine. Boy was I wrong!


Sandy provided me with the above written set of rules for the contest. I had a few additional follow up questions in order to adhere to the strict rules of the game. Essentially, there were five pills hidden as well as a smaller cache of pills in a different hiding place.

A timer was set and I was “on the clock”. I started the search in her living room. I found the second pill within eight minutes and later, after a longer period of time, found the third of five pills. I followed the rules as best I could and only damaged one hanging bracket when I removed a picture from a wall. But, I will admit, that I did not find two of the pills nor did I uncover the ingenious hiding location for the cache of pills, (handsewn into a hem of a quilt),  despite being so close when time was called. Sandy was a worthy adversary and while it was a tie, she clearly proved she had excellent skills of concealment. I guess I have not watched enough of those CSI shows to know how to search for evidence. Congrats Sandy!

I have now hiked a total of 282.7 miles of the AT: 89.8 miles in New York (completed), 71.9 miles in New Jersey (completed), 50.4 miles in Connecticut (completed), 5.0 miles in Massachusetts, 41.2 miles in Pennsylvania, 23.5 miles in Maryland and .9 miles in West Virginia.

Thank you so much to Sandy and my wife, Bernadette, who made it possible for Commander Plodder and I to have so much fun for three days. Bernadette and Sandy felt they had the ‘better’ vacation but the two  boys who hiked in nonstop rain and mud know the real truth!

More hikes to plan.

Condor 3


On Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 I made arrangements to meet my former co-worker and good friend, Ralph, at the Rt. 309 road crossing of the Appalachian Trail in Andreas, Pennsylvania. This is the junction of Pennsylvania AT sections #4 (to the south)and #3 (to the north). Having recently completed Section #3 on April 29th, my plan was to leave my car at the Rt. 309 trail head parking area and get a ride to an area near the Eckville Shelter so that on May 10th I could hike the 11.5 mile northern half of Section #4. I had read some nice things about the Eckville Shelter which featured a flushing toilet, a charging station for cell phones, a faucet dispensing drinkable water and a clean six-bunk shelter with a door. This almost sounded too good to be true but thanks to the caretaker in the nearby house, it was wonderful. Also, I got to meet a bunch of very nice AT hikers.

But first, I had to meet Ralph. I did not know exactly which car he would be using but a bit of fortunate timing had me turning into the parking area just behind Ralph. What a unique shuttle ride I was to experience. I have never ridden in a 1978 Fiat Spyder 124 Pina Ferra convertible but it was great fun tackling the turns on the country roads on our way to the our lunch destination at the Fogelsville Hops Hotel which is a bar and restaurant located on Main Street in Fogelsville, PA.


During our lunch of classic cheeseburgers, Ralph and I caught up on some fun stories but the best one pertained to Ralph’s Fiat Spyder. In the interest of brevity, Ralph owned this same car decades ago and sold it to a coworker in Philadelphia. The coworker sold it to his father who essentially left it in a garage after doing some repairs. The car was then moved to another garage and left there more than ten years until Ralph found out that the father was willing to sell the car back to Ralph for the same price (plus an additional $500 for repair work put into the car) that Ralph had originally sold the car more than twenty years ago. Ralph looked so happy telling the story and he looked so European driving an Italian sports car convertible. I never figured out how his hat never came off.

After lunch, Ralph drove me nearby the Eckville Shelter. I did my classic poor effort at a selfie with Ralph and he took a photo of me as I prepared to walk the short distance to the shelter.


I walked along Hawk Mountain Road and saw this sign.


This is one of the most colorful and neat shelter signs I have ever seen. Note that there is no smoking and no pizza delivery on the hand written additions made to the sign. But I turned right and walked across the grass to the Eckville Shelter.


Some through hikers had already arrived and I made sure that there was an open bunk. Through hiker “Gentleman” from Ohio showed me which bunks weren’t being used and I set my stuff on a lower bunk. That is my bunk with the Thermarest sleeping pad laid out.

I then walked around to check out the building housing the flushing toilet, a shower and a small changing room. Such luxury is marvelous. I did not use the shower but one hiker did and he enjoyed a short amount of warm water from the tanks mounted next to the building.


I spent some time sitting at the picnic table meeting other hikers which were a combination of hikers who were back on the trail to finish sections not completed previously along with thru hikers who had started at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and were intent on making it to Mount Katahdin in Maine later this summer. “Kamikazee” from Scotland had already hiked the bottom half of the AT between Harpers Ferry and Springer Mountain in Georgia during a prior summer. Now he was doing the northern half as he was lucky to have enough time off from his employer. I also met “Frito” (like the snacking chip), “Hurricane Mama”, “Old Soul”, “Fat Tony” and a couple of other hikers whose trail names I did not get. Old Soul and another female hiker decided to hike an additional seven miles late in the afternoon before they would sleep. I had some extra power bars so I gave a couple to Old Soul who said she was a little low on food and appreciated the help. Another hiker, making her the seventh hiker, arrived at the shelter. She decided to set up her sleeping pad and bag on the shelter floor next to the side of the shelter desk so no one would trip over her during the night.

Each hiker started “preparing” their evening meal. Some boiled water, mixing it with a Ramon Noodle pack and letting it stand in a plastic peanut butter jar with a lid. After about ten minutes, the noodles softened up enough for consumption. Bon appetit! I had a cheese and salami sandwich with a baggie of GORP (good ‘ol raisins and peanuts-with a few M&Ms for flavor).

Around 7:30pm, I did a last check of my map for the next day’s hike and verified the usual waking times for the other hikers. It was good news as several of them arose between 5:30-6am each day. This was perfect for my schedule.

I drifted off to sleep and made sure I had my Petzl headlamp nearby in case nature called during the night. It did and I used the red lamp setting so I would not disturb everyone else who were fast asleep at 12:20am. I went back to sleep quickly and woke up around 5am. I quietly carried my stuff to the bathroom building and got dressed there. I then checked to see that a bunch of hikers were already stirring so I heated up some water for my tea with honey. “Gentleman” was first on the trail and I wish him luck on his quest to reach Maine. I was a little behind him and headed northbound into the woods at 6:22am. The entrance on Hawk Mountain Road is marked by this sign. The sun was out and the weather was perfect. I hoped I could finish the hike before rain which was forecast for later in the day.


The first half mile featured a stepping stone walkway, a very basic bridge and a very well built footbridge in that order.


The trail then ascended a little over 1,000 feet over the next 2.5 miles during which time hikers pass the intersection for the Hawk Mountain Trail on the left before reaching Dan’s Pulpit at 1615′ above sea level (asl). I had covered three miles in one hour and 18 minutes which considering the elevation change was very good.

At the top is a white colored metal register box. It did not have a register inside. I briefly enjoyed the view looking down into the valley below. The last photo I took before continuing on indicated that the box was made by D. R. Beidler.


After a little more than one hour I saw a directional sign for Balance Rocks on my right.


Rock formations along or near the ridge back of mountains in this area are not unique. What was unique was that there were about four Amish or Mennonite women hikers dressed in their usual, hand made clothing. I said hello and they continued heading south.

The trail was a mixture of some sharp pointy rocks and navigating larger boulders which necessitated some rock scrambling. “Kamikazee” came up behind me around 9am and I let him pass. Young persons are so light on their feet. I had given him my contact information in case he needed any help in New York or Connecticut.

I reached the Tri County Corner sign which marks the intersection of Schuylkill, Lehigh and Berks Counties.


“AWOL” Miller’s guide warns to turn left to head west in order to stay on the AT northbound. However, I could see that turning left at the sign actually would put a hiker on a side trail. So I stayed hiking northbound for a short distance and then saw the hard left turn to keep heading northbound on the AT. Hikers take note.

Around 10am, rain drops started and I put on my jacket and my backpack cover. I did not know how hard the rain would be. I was glad my pack cover is bright orange colored as most of the AT in this area borders on state game lands.

After a little under four hours of hiking and having covered 7.4 miles, I reached the directional sign for the Allentown Hiker Shelter on the right hand side. The shelter is nearby and is visible from the trail.


I signed the register and drank some gatorade. I noticed that a checkers/chess board was painted on the shelter platform.


As I was getting ready to head back north, two southbound hikers, “Sherpa” and “Jarm” from North Carolina arrived. I learned that as soon as Sherpa finishes this area of Pennsylvania, he will have done all the sections from Georgia to the Delaware Water Gap. He plans to continue hiking from New Jersey north sometime in the future. I gave him my contact number in case he needs some help when he gets up into that area. Jarm took our photo before I headed back onto the trail.


Sherpa said that the trail footing in the next 4.1 miles to the Rt. 309 crossing was very good. Even brief respites from the pointy rocks in Pennsylvania is appreciated.

After just .3 miles I saw the directional sign for the nearby spring. I did not walk down to check on it but at least it is well marked. The rain seemed to be lightening so I took off my jacket.


Very soon I realized that this part of the trail was going to be very different from miles I had previously done in PA, even different from earlier miles on this morning. Here is what the trail looked like.


This was incredible. There were some small ups and downs but for the most part my feet had a vacation from balancing each footstep on sharp or angular rocks. AT guides should inform hikers that this 4.1 mile stretch between Rt. 309 and the Allentown Shelter is so nice.

As I approached the iron gate across the AT just before the Fort Franklin gravel road crossing, I noticed “Hurricane Mama” sitting on a nearby boulder with her pack off. She must have passed me while I was talking with the hikers in the Allentown Shelter. She explained that she had to wait there for five hours for a shuttle driver to take her to Port Clinton as she had to return home in Pittsburgh to handle a family matter. After talking for a while, she decided to accept my offer to drive her from Rt. 309 to the Pavilion in Port Clinton where she could wait for the shuttle driver out of the rain. The shuttle driver lived in Port Clinton.

We only had 2.2 miles left in the hike and the trail footing remained the same lush bed of grass and leaves with virtually no sharp rocks. We hiked together and the distance flew by. Hurricane Mama checked her GutHook app and said that we were only about .3 miles from Rt.309. We covered the last 2.2 miles in 48 minutes.

I gave Hurricane Mama a ride to The Pavilion in Port Clinton. Here are some pictures of the site which is just a short distance, marked by side trail blue blazes from where the AT crosses through Port Clinton. It is located north of where the AT passes through.


There were some gallon water bottles left by volunteers for hikers to refill their water bottles. Hikers were permitted to camp in tents across the street but were advised not to camp under the pavilion except during extreme weather times. Apparently, birds, attracted by food from hikers,  were becoming a nuisance in the shelter.

Hurricane Mama used her more enhanced selfie photographic skills to take a decent photo before I left to return home.


My Iphone health app said that I had taken about 29,192 steps and had climbed 83 floors.

I have now hiked a total of 260 miles of the AT- 89.8 in New York (state completed), 71.9 in New Jersey (state completed), 50.4 miles in Connecticut (state completed), 5.0 in Massachusetts, and 41.2 miles in Pennsylvania.

More hikes to plan and enjoy. Thanks Bernadette for supporting my adventures.

Condor 3


On Sunday, April 29, 2018 I was accompanied on my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike by my sister Ellyn (trail name Aunt Polly) and her two sons (my nephews) Dustin and Tucker, who use trail names Gatito and Tuckleberry. Gatito served as the sherpa for my sister and carried her backpack. Our plan was to hike all of Pennsylvania AT Section #3 which is a 13.2 mile section from the Rt. 309 road crossing to the Rt. 873 bridge over the Lehigh River in Slatington and then the additional .7 miles of the southern part of Section #2 to get us to the Superfund Trailhead Parking area at the base of the Dante’s Inferno Rock Climb. After arranging our vehicles at each end of the hike, we headed northbound at 7:35am from the Rt. 309 road crossing which is just a little south of the trail head parking lot. The weather was cool, in the 40s, and the skies were overcast with patches of blue peeking around the clouds. There was a little breeze which got noticeably stronger while on top of the mountain.

We did the first 1.8 miles quickly as we reached the Powerline crossing and the sign on the left for the New Tripoli Campsite which is just .2 miles to the west of the AT.

We did not see a lot of wildlife. We saw a few squirrels and a couple of vultures who were perched in a tree near one of scenic overlooks. Gadito held up this insect, a milliipede I believe, for a photo.


Although we did not see any black bears, we did see a tree that looked like a bear had clawed on it to eat some insects. I stood next to it and raised my arm which is about 8 feet off the ground for scale reference. The bear who scratched this tree was probably pretty big and I am glad we did not cross paths.


We continued climbing for a little during the one mile trip to the famous Knife Edge rock formation along the ridge back of the mountain. Despite some rocks in the trail, we covered almost three miles so far in 80 minutes. We had a nice view down to the valley below on the south side of the mountain. Gatito posed on the knife edge with Aunt Polly partially seen further ahead.

After carefully stepping along the edges of rocks we came to another rocky area named Bear Rocks. This offered another nice view. We did a bunch of rock scrambling which reminded me of many AT sections in New York State.

We continued hiking and our feet were occasionally rewarded with easy footing when the trail morphed into a pine needle carpeted path with few rocks. Even though this relief was short lived, it was still wonderful while it lasted.

We took a break at the gravel road crossing and parking area for Bake Oven Knob Road. After crossing the parking lot, I took this photo of some of the posted warning signs before we reentered the woods. Notice the top middle sign concerning the prohibition to possessing paint.


Having just a short .4 mile distance to the landmark called the Bake Oven Knob, I saw at once why hikers are forbidden to carry paint on this trail. Some unknown artist had plied his craft onto a large boulder. Other hikers were nearby enjoying the views both to the south and, by just walking a short way across the ridge back, hikers could enjoy views to the valley below on the north side of the mountain as well.


We left the painted rock and as we headed north again, we were passed by five southbound teenagers who had just spent the last night at the Bake Oven Shelter. We said hi to the kids and continued a short way where we met Jace Gill and Damon Rosario who are the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster respectively of Boy Scout Troop 60, Minsi Trails Council and the five hikers we just passed were their scouts. Their troop is based out of Orefield, Pennsylvania and we enjoyed a short chat about their activities.


That is me on the left, Jace in the middle and Damon on the right.

It is so wonderful that volunteers like Jace and Damon dedicate their time to help guide these scouts to enjoy the outdoors and learn a lot of life skills as well. This was apparently the first overnight hike on the AT for these boys. They will share these memories forever.  Thank you to Jace and Damon for taking the time to share your hike with me. Good luck to Troop 60.

Next, we descended almost two hundred feet in .6 mile before arriving at the Bake Oven Knob Shelter which was built in 1937.

If you look at the sign on the upper right, you see the abbreviation “BMECC” with I think may be tied to the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club which, according to their website (bmecc.org), has a long history of volunteers who helped to build 102 miles of the AT between 1926-1931. This organization currently does the maintenance along 64 miles of the AT from PA Route 325 in Section #7 to the Lehigh Tunnel in Section #3 as well as maintain eight AT shelters in that part of the trail. They even had a welcome sign posted further down the trail, closer to the Ashfield Road crossing.


While we all took a break and sat at the shelter’s picnic table, I used the time to write an entry in the trail register. I also took some photos of the shelter and the nearest spring. I could easily envision this spring drying up during the summer months.

Inside the shelter, on the left side was a red colored supply box or hiker box where hikers could leave unneeded items or take something. There was a belt, some AAA batteries and other miscellaneous items.


Back on the trail again, we did the next 2.4 miles in about one hour and twenty minutes and arrived at the Lehigh Furnace Gap where the Ashfield Road crosses the AT and there is a huge Communications tower on the left hand side of the trail.

Throughout the day’s hike, we encountered numerous concrete posts which identified the township and county on one side. The other side had the words State Game Lands. I am not sure when these were installed, but it might be around 1966 as that year appears on some of the markers. Thanks to my sister and nephews whose sharp eyesight saw posts that I had missed. Here is a sample of some of these posts.

We had now been hiking almost five hours but only had one more short climb to hike, so we kept on trekking. We reached the South Trail intersection which, according to AWOL’s AT Guide is at an elevation of 1590′ above sea level (asl). This was the highest we would be during our hike. We hovered most of our hike between 1300-1500′ asl.


About a half hour after passing the South Trail connector, we noticed an approaching southbound hiker whose name was Tom. He asked us for some help as he had fallen and cut his lips on some rocks. My Wilderness First Responder experience and Aunt Polly’s medical training kicked in. Tom had done a pretty good job of taking care of himself on his own before we saw him. My sister and I talked to him briefly and I gave him an ice pack to use on his trip back to the Ashfield Road parking area where his car was located. Before he left, I gave him my name and cell number and asked that he call once he was back to his car. I am happy to report that Tom called me later and reported that he was doing okay. We were glad to have the chance to briefly meet Tom and to give him a small amount of help.

Twenty minutes after seeing Tom disappear down the trail,  we reached the North Trail connector where there is a TV tower.


We had hiked 11 miles at this point. This is also the location on the mountain which is directly over top of the Lehigh Valley Tunnel where the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike passes through the mountain. I checked the location on my cell phone using Google Maps. We now had less than three miles to go.

After a short hike past the Tower access road, we began about a four hundred foot descent over the one mile trip to the second North Trail connector intersection.


Just .2 miles and additional descending, led us to the George W. Outerbridge Shelter which was built in 1965.


This shelter is named for the person who is credited with being the second person, after one of the AT’s founders Myron Avery, to section hike all parts of the AT. According to the website AppalachianTrailHistory.org, Outerbridge began his section hiking on October 30, 1932 and completed his final section on June 22, 1939. My nephews are in the photo as they are taking a short break before our final push to complete our hike.

All four of us then began a more than five hundred foot descent in just .5 miles to PA Rt. 873. Just before reaching the road, we passed a sign for the Woodpecker Trail which leads to the nearby Lehigh Gap Nature Center.


We arrived onto Rt. 873 at 2:57pm and as we approached the Rt. 873 Bridge spanning the Lehigh River, I noticed this sign in the photo below.


I guess there is some history to the various bridges constructed to cross the Lehigh River in this area. After crossing the bridge, we turned right at the light, followed the AT blazes to the next light, crossed the road, and then followed the blazes up a bare, dirt embankment which returned us to the Superfund Trailhead parking area which is surprisingly large and can handle many vehicles. Some nearby hikers took our finish photo. Listed from left to right by our trail names–Condor 3, Tuckleberry, Aunt Polly & Gadito.


We rode in my sister’s car back down Mountain Road to Rt. 309 so I could retrieve my vehicle at the starting point of our hike. My sister and two nephews seemed to handle this nearly fourteen mile hike with ease. This hike was wonderful and I am thankful that they could share the hike with me. I hope to hike another AT section with them soon.

According to the health app on my I-phone, I hiked 13.7 miles, walked 34,649 steps and climbed 49 floors.

I have now section hiked a total of 248.5 miles of the AT – 89.8 in NY(completed), 71.9 in NJ(completed), 50.4 in CT(completed), 5.0 in MA and 29.7 in PA. More hikes to plan.

Condor 3